Warning: This post was published more than 12 years ago.
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A leading US nutritionist today claimed that vegetarian and vegan parents are damaging their children’s health by denying them meat.
This is a bizarre claim in the first place, but when you look at the research Lindsay Allen bases her claims on, it becomes close to comical:
Prof Allen conducted a study of impoverished children in Kenya, and found that adding as little as two spoonfuls of meat a day to their starch-based diets dramatically improved muscle development and mental skills.
The African study involved 544 children in Kenya, typically aged around seven, whose diet mainly consisted of starchy, low-nutrition corn and bean staples lacking these micronutrients. Over a period of two years, one group of the children was given a daily supplement of two ounces of meat – equivalent to roughly two spoonfuls of mince.
Two other groups received either a cup of milk a day or an oil supplement containing the same amount of energy. The diet of a fourth group was left unaltered.
The changes seen in the children given the meat, and to a lesser extent the milk or oil, were dramatic.
And from this, she’s deduced that
There’s absolutely no question that it’s unethical for parents to bring up their children as strict vegans
See what she did there? She extrapolated data relating to poor children in Kenya to apply to the whole world. Does she not think that, perhaps, parents of children in developed countries may have better access to supplements, which will prevent their children from missing the nutritional value provided by meat? Does her magically extrapolated study account for this? No, because the substitutes given just contained “the same amount of energy”.
And as we progress from the sublime to the ridiculous, Sir Paul McCartney has this to contribute:
From my own point of view, it has been a good thing for me and my children, who are no shorter than other children.
Whilst it’s good to know that Sir Paul McCartney’s children aren’t of short stature, I haven’t read any claims by our Prof that children would be shorter.
I’m not sure what particular axe the Prof has to grind, but this is just bad science at it’s most disturbing and strange.